A Day in the Life of Lizzie Wade

Lizzie Wade is a freelance science journalist and a contributing correspondent for Science, where she covers archaeology, anthropology, and all things Latin America. She has lived in Mexico City for the last four years. Her writing has also appeared in Aeon, California Sunday, The Atlantic, Archaeology, and Wired, among others. She studied comparative literature at Barnard College and the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Follow her on Twitter @lizzie_wade.

Lizzie WadeBree Zucker

Lizzie Wade

What I’m working on:

My bread and butter is a mix of news articles and features for Science, both for the print magazine and online. I’ve been their Latin America correspondent for almost four years, when I offered to move to Mexico City after my six-month internship in the DC office ended. I also officially joined the archaeology and anthropology team about a year ago, and it’s given me so many opportunities to write about bones and mummies, a lifelong obsession. I recently did a feature about collective societies in Mesoamerica, which was an interesting way to contribute to the current discussion about threats to democracy. Science takes up most of my time and energy, but I also try to squeeze in writing for other publications to flex different muscles. I write a monthly Q&A column for Muse, a magazine for kids. I’m working on a feature for Archaeology now, and I recently had a couple of short assignments from The New York Times (both the paper and the magazine), one of which wasn’t even about science at all.

Where I work:

I work from my apartment in the Juárez neighborhood of Mexico City. I first came here 10 years ago for a semester of study abroad. Then I had a Fulbright from 2009 to 2011, when I studied for a master’s degree in comparative literature at UNAM, or the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the big public university here. I came back in 2013 with my Science contract.

I love the excitement (some would say chaos) and history of Mexico City, and at this point it really feels like home. I’m going to become a permanent resident of Mexico this summer, and since I’m married to a Mexican I could be a citizen within a couple years, though I’m still pondering the pros and cons of that. My office looks out over our building’s courtyard, which is home to a jacaranda tree that blooms purple flowers every spring. My husband is a musician and also works at home, so I get to listen to him practicing and composing for much of the day.

Daily routine:

My alarm goes off at 7:30, and I usually stop hitting snooze around 8:00. I’d love to say I jump up to greet every day with a smile on my face, but usually my husband makes coffee and breakfast while I click around on Twitter for a while or read articles I stored in Pocket the day before. (I’m so lucky.)

I check emails and news (okay, Twitter) over breakfast and usually call into the news meeting at Science in the morning—unless I have interviews—and then I walk my dog.

After the walk I try to buckle down until lunchtime, which starts at 2:00 p.m. in Mexico. Lunch is the big meal here, and I often go out for a three-course comida corrida, which has a set menu and takes about an hour. If I’m in a rush, I’ll go to the street-food stand on my corner. I like cooking and wish I did it more, but it’s hard to fit an elaborate lunch preparation into a busy workday.

Wade officeCourtesy of Lizzie Wade

Wade’s home office in Mexico City.

 

After lunch I have tea and futz around on my computer, often replying to emails I didn’t get to during my more productive hours or catching up on what’s going on in the world (yep, Twitter again). Sometimes I spend another hour or so writing if I have a deadline. I try to stop around 6:00 and go to a yoga class. I get back around 9:00 and have a light dinner (after a three-course lunch you’re not too hungry!), and then we go to bed between 11:00 and midnight.

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This schedule all goes out the window for a fast-turnaround news story, of course, when I enter a panicked fugue state and pass all daily-life responsibilities off to my very kind and supportive husband. Those stories can be exhilarating but I’m glad I only have to do them once in a while.

Most productive part of my day:

10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Post dog walk, pre lunch

Most essential ritual or habit:

Evening yoga. And even though I don’t live in the U.S., I still listen to NPR every morning. I also do a lot of crafts, like knitting, cross stitch, and making sculptures called alebrijes, which are kind of like animal-monster hybrids painted with colorful patterns. I go to a workshop every Saturday to papier mâché and paint mine. Each one takes me about a year to make.

 

Courtesy of Lizzie Wade

Wade’s latest creation in her alebrije workshop.

 

Mobile device:

iPhone 6SE. It has new software but it’s the old smaller size. I like that because I have small hands and also I don’t want it to be any easier or more pleasant than it already is to spend hours staring at my phone.

Computer:

MacBook Air, with an external hard drive for storage space and an external monitor. The monitor is a recent addition and I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner.

Essential software/apps/productivity tools:

I love Scrivener for writing and organizing research. I do most of my interviews on Skype and record with Call Recorder, or with an Olympus digital recorder for in person interviews. I keep track of all my assignments in a spreadsheet based on this model from the freelance journalist Virginia Sole-Smith. I am completely obsessed with it and recommend it to anyone who has to keep track of freelance work and money.

Favorite time waster/procrastination habit:

Twitter and dog walks. I didn’t have Twitter on my phone for years, but after the election it went back on ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. I also wander around my apartment and whine about writing to the dog, the cat, my husband, or some combination of the three. This is a lifelong habit; I used to do it to my parents in high school, though I’ve gotten a lot better with time management since then.

 

Nena and PelusaCourtesy of Lizzie Wade

Nena would like to go for a walk. Pelusa, shown napping, is always prepared to commiserate with writerly woes.

 

My reading habits:

I read most books on my Kindle. I love being able to buy books in English easily, and when I was moving around a lot for school and internships I really appreciated not having to cart around a huge library of physical books. I probably read more fiction than nonfiction books, but I also read lots of magazines online or through digital subscriptions. I’m most devoted to The New Yorker. I usually read right before falling asleep.

Sleep schedule: 

11:30 p.m. to 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. Sometimes our pets wake me up in the middle of the night to snuggle, which I know I shouldn’t be so delighted by.

 

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4 Comments

  1. Pingback: The Open Notebook – Lizzie Wade Examines a Debate over the Origins of the Amazon’s Biodiversity

  2. Pingback: The Open Notebook – Why Is It So Hard for Foreign Journalists to Break into U.S. and European Outlets?

  3. Siri Carpenter says:

    Done! Sorry ’bout that. Sometimes WordPress not-so-helpfully converts links to underlined text, and sometimes I miss that.

  4. The link to Virginia Sole-Smith’s freelancer spreadsheet won’t open. Can you repost please?!

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